PensionsEurope warns about detrimental effects of capital solvency requirements

7 October 2016 - The Norwegian government plans to introduce a simplified Solvency II requirement for pension funds in January 2018. PensionsEurope warns that Solvency capital requirements at national or at EU level would have significant negative impacts on pension funds, sponsors, and members. They significantly increase pension funds’ costs and decrease their possibilities to invest long term in real economy and to contribute to jobs and growth in Europe. Furthermore, they decrease the willingness of employers to provide occupational pension schemes, and therefore, also the future coverage of occupational pension schemes. You can read the press release here

PensionsEurope response to FSB consultation on proposed policy recommendations to address structural vulnerabilities from asset management activities

PensionsEurope has submitted its response to the Financial Stability Board’s (FSB) consultation paper on proposed policy recommendations to address structural vulnerabilities for asset management activities.

PensionsEurope welcomed the FSB’s statement that pension funds contribute to the stability of the financial system thanks to their long term horizon and due to the fact that their investment choices are not significantly affected by temporary fluctuations of the markets.

Some asset managers seems to generalize or overestimate the risk that pension funds could pose to the financial system and request the FSB  and IOSCO to also include pension funds in the NBNI-work. We note that pension funds are - as opposed to asset managers - subject to extensive regulatory (prudential) oversight, based on the European IORP Directive and on national regulations.  Controlling the assets does not mean that pension funds reallocate assets in a non-prudent manner or are a source of systemic risk.

In Europe, in its first European IORP Stress Test Report conducted in 2015 with the objective among others aims of asssessing the potential for systemic risk that may be posed by financial institutions to increase in situations of stress, the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) recognised that IORPs do not pose systemic risk, but vice versa, they are able to mitigate financial shocks and work as stabilising factor for the financial sector.

You can read the document here.

PensionsEurope recommends the MEPs to vote in favour of the modernised rules for pension funds

The plenary vote in the European Parliament on the IORP II Directive  has been scheduled for October 2016. In its brochure published on 26 September 2016, PensionsEurope recommends the MEPs to vote in favour of the modernised rules for pension funds. PensionsEurope shares the goal of the rules to facilitate the development of occupational retirement savings and to provide sustainable and adequate occupational pensions to the European citizens. PensionsEurope looks forward to sharing the best practices on the implementation of the IORP II Directive. You can find the brochure here.

PensionsEurope calls for EIOPA to respect the modernised rules for pension funds

15 September 2016 - In its position paper on the IORP Quantitative Assessment and EIOPA's opinion that was published today, PensionsEurope rejects EIOPA’s proposal for the mandatory use of the ‘common framework balance sheet’ as a risk management and transparency tool and the call for regulatory responses by the national competent authorities based on it. PensionsEurope stresses that risk management is essential for IORPs and they regularly carry out their own stress tests and scenario analyses (e.g. Asset and Liability Management studies) as part of their own risk management processes. Furthermore, the IORP II Directive contains a thorough framework for pension funds’ future risk management and assessment. Now it is time for a period of legislative calm in order that pension funds can concentrate on delivering adequate, safe and affordable pensions and retirement provisions for their members and beneficiaries. You can find the press release here.

PensionsEurope answers to European Commission’s consultation on the Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR)

The association welcomes that the Commission is looking into the Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR) rules which are also part of the requirements that lead to the cash preferences of banks which are detrimental for pension funds and their service providers.

Certain elements of the CRDIV bank capital rules have strong opposing incentives for banks to only receive variation margin in cash to support non-cleared OTC derivatives positions. More precisely, the leverage ratio and net stable funding ratio (NSFR) rules could force pension funds to post Variation Margin in cash only, and not permit other assets for collateralizing non-cleared derivative trades. This directly contradicts the EMIR policymakers’ objective and would force pension schemes to have to post variation margin in cash for non-cleared trades as well. It would introduce disproportionate cost and risk to EU pensioners.

In addition the leverage ratio and NSFR rules only allow cash Variation Margin (VM) to offset any positive mark-to-market exposures borne by a bank on OTC derivatives positions. Non-cash VM, even high quality government bonds, are not permitted to offset the mark-to-market exposures. As a result, many banks are now restricting OTC derivatives trades to those that are collateralised with cash VM only, where previously banks would also accept high quality government bonds as VM.

The Capital requirements for banks, imposed by Basel III and CRDIV rules, have had also a negative impact on market liquidity, especially in the repo market. In fact, CRDIV and CRR restrict the liquidity on the repo market.

We suggest policymakers to consider allowing high-quality government bonds with appropriate haircuts to offset the mark-to-market exposures of OTC derivatives in leverage ratio and NSFR calculations and to exempt pension funds from posting collateral in non-cleared transactions until non-cash solutions for posting collateral are developed.

You can find the response here.

PensionsEurope welcomes the modernised rules for pension funds

After the successful trilogue negotiations the Committee of Permanent Representatives approved the review of the IORP Directive 30 June. PensionsEurope welcomes the updated legislation on the activities and supervision of institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORPs). You can read PensionsEurope's press release here.

PensionsEurope comments on the result of UK referendum on EU membership

Janwillem Bouma, Chair of PensionsEurope said:

"PensionsEurope regrets the UK's decision to leave the European Union but we respect the outcome of the referendum. 

Pension funds across Europe now need to have a clear view of what will happen over the next few years to provide much-needed certainty to pension funds and pension savers. The UK Government and EU institutions must work together to develop a clear plan and timetable of next steps. 

Pension funds invest in markets across Europe, and it is important that this can continue to be the case. We need this to support pension funds and for the security of millions of pension fund members and pensioners across Europe.

The UK Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association remains an important and valued member of PensionsEurope."

PensionsEurope paper on Key Principles of Good Governance for Workplace Defined Contribution Pension Plans throughout Europe

Today, PensionsEurope published at its annual conference Making Pensions Work - More pension saving, better pension investing a paoer on PensionsEurope paper on Key Principles of Good Governance for Workplace Defined Contribution Pension Plans throughout Europe. Across Europe there is a growing trend towards the establishment of defined contribution (DC) pension plans for second pillar, workplace pension provision. For employers to continue to offer workplace DC pension plans they need to have confidence that these plans are robust, well run and offer value for money. Good governance is therefore essential if workplace DC pension plans are to retain the confidence of employees and employers. This paper sets out 14 key principles of good governance to which we believe all workplace DC pension plans throughout Europe should adhere (as a minimum) in order to ensure this.

You can find the paper here, and the press release is available here.

PensionsEurope calls to remove withholding tax refund barriers to cross-border investment in the EU

In its paper, published on 19 April 2016, PensionsEurope provides several examples of the lack of reciprocal recognition of pension funds and the problems with the withholding tax (WHT) refund processes. PensionsEurope calls on policymakers to remove WHT barriers to cross-border investments in the EU.

Janwillem Bouma, Chair of PensionsEurope:

- "The obstacles with the WHT refund processes pose a major barrier to cross-border investments in the EU and to build the Capital Markets Union. In order to boost the economic growth in the EU, PensionsEurope calls on the EU Member States and the European Commission to remove all the WHT barriers to cross-border investments. This means that the EU Member States shall respect the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, reciprocally and automatically recognize pension funds, and simplify their WHT processes."

A large number of practical problems with the WHT refund processes still exist in spite of the EFTA judgment “Fokus Bank” (2004) and the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union i.e. “Denkavit” (2006), “Amurta” (2007), “Aberdeen” (2009), and “Santander” (2012). The above-mentioned cases have shown that the WHT practices in many EU Member States are discriminatory with respect to dividends earned by foreign funds, and therefore, contradicting the European law.

Matti Leppälä, Secretary General/CEO of PensionsEurope:

- "The WHT refund processes are complex, expensive, and long-lasting. Often they can last even 10 years and cost half of the expected refunds, as costly tax advice in foreign languages is needed. Since the legal outcomes are uncertain, given that the legal recourse involves several levels of jurisdiction, often pension funds do not assert their justified reclaims. Therefore, PensionsEurope calls on the EU Member States to ensure simple, transparent, and inexpensive WHT refund processes."

PensionsEurope welcomes EIOPA’s decision to drop solvency requirements, but has strong concerns about the proposed common framework for risk management.

The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) published on 14 April 2016 the results of its Quantitative Assessment exercise covering six EU countries and its opinion to the European Commission, Council and Parliament on a Common Framework for Risk Assessment and Transparency for Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision (IORPs). You can find PensionsEurope's press release here